Monday, 11 July 2011

Ford Sync patent action

From the company that broke the Selden patent: an interesting addition to the motor industry IP casebook in the making. Ford is being sued by Eagle Harbor Holdings, a small Washington State-based technology company, that claims the Ford Sync system infringes (infringes on, as they say in the States) its patents. The system enables users to control functions of the car using voice commands - how scary is that? - and has been fitted in millions of Ford cars in the US since 2007. The parties were in discussion as long ago as 2002, but seem now to have hit a brick wall.

Here is the story from Automotive News. Despite the "Holdings" part of the name, the company is a genuine practising entity, which is confirmed by the fact that it has issued proceedings in Federal Court in Tacoma, Wa, not the eastern district of Texas. You can read their press release about the matter here.

I hope they fare better than Selden did. He was eventually found to have obtained a patent over an improved version of the Otto engine, and his patent was declared invalid, Ford being the lead claimant in the action to get rid of the patent. I make no comment on the novelty of the Eagle Harbor patents, of course - and I will also forbear to comment on the social utility of inventions that might dilute the already limited connection between the driver and the vehicle. Not, of course, that this invention necessarily does so: but Federal regulators are already concerned about "driver distraction" and Ford Sync, and the complexity of the new improved "My Ford Touch" (a trade mark disaster in the making, perhaps) has caused Ford to drop down the J.D. Power Initial Quality Study, according to the AM story.

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